Film review: Demolition – Jake Gyllenhaal plays a quirky wreck in unconventional grief drama
The busy actor drives an oddball odyssey you’ll either deeply buy into or promptly reject
French-Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée has been on a roll these past three years: Dallas Buyers Club won Oscars for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, while 2014’s Wild gained star Reese Witherspoon an Oscar nomination. Scripted by Bryan Sipe, Demolition is a similarly adult drama where performances come first, although this emotionally grinding tale about grief and self-destruction never quite finds the acute human touch that Vallée’s two previous films did.
Jake Gyllenhaal, on a roll, too, after full-blooded turns in Southpaw and Nightcrawler , plays Davis Mitchell, a white-collar office worker who goes off the rails after his wife dies in a car accident. He doesn’t cry or do the other “traditional” things people associate with loss. Instead, he takes a sledgehammer to his pristine suburban house, loses the faith of his father-in-law/boss (Chris Cooper) and, most curiously, starts writing letters to the company responsible for a faulty vending machine.
While this catches the attention of Naomi Watts’ customer service rep, Davis’ increasingly irrational behaviour drives this oddball odyssey – one you’ll either buy into wholeheartedly or dismiss out of hand. Credit Vallée – one of the best actors’ directors working in Hollywood – for going out on a limb here, depicting the unusual ways inner turmoil can manifest itself. The risk-taking doesn’t entirely come off. But in an era of vapid studio movies, it’d be churlish to complain.
Demolition opens on April 14
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